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Terms Used In Analyzing Literature

I. Figures of Speech

1. IMAGE -- a literal and concrete representation of a sensory experience or of an object that can be known by one or more of the senses. Images may be either literal or figurative, a literal image being one that involves no necessary change or extension in the obvious meaning of the words, one in which the words call up a sensory representation of the literal object of sensation; and a figurative image being one that involves a "turn" on the literal meaning of the words.

2. SIMILE -- comparison between things that are essentially unlike. Comparison is expressed by such words as like, as, than, similar to, or resembles.
Ex. He is greedy as a pig.

3. METAPHOR -- comparison between things that are essentially unlike. Comparison is implied; the figurative term is substituted for or identifies with the literal term.
Ex. Ella is the queen bee of this hive.

4. PERSONIFICATION -- giving the attributes of a human being to an animal, an object or an idea.
Ex. Death stalked the moor.

5. APOSTROPHE -- addressing someone not present or an animal, plant or inanimate object as if it could reply.
Ex. Life, I know not where thou art.

6. SYNECDOCHE -- a part substituted for the whole.
Ex. The cuckoo's song is unpleasing to the married ear.

7. METONYMY -- use of a closely related idea for the idea itself.
Ex. The pen is mightier than the sword.

8. SYMBOL -- an image whose literal meaning is far removed from its figurative meaning.
Ex. a red rose.

9. ALLEGORY -- a narrative or description which has a second meaning beyond itself.
Ex. Pilgrim's Progress.

10. PARADOX -- an apparent contradiction which is nevertheless somehow true.
Ex. To hear a spark yet think no danger nigh.

11. UNDERSTATEMENT -- saying less than one means.
Ex. Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

12. OVERSTATEMENT or HYPERBOLE -- exaggeration in the service of truth.
Ex. There were a million people downtown.

13. IRONY-- a disparity between what seems to be and what is true.
    A. Verbal irony -- saying the opposite of what one means.

    B. Dramatic irony -- a disparity between what the speaker says and what the author means.

    C. Irony of situation -- a discrepancy between the actual circumstances and those that would seem appropriate or between what one anticipates and what actually comes to pass.

II. Other terms

14. ALLUSION --Reference to something in history or previous literature. Ex. The Sound and The Fury.

15. ALLITERATION -- repetition of initial consonant sounds. Ex. glitters and gleams.

16. ASSONANCE -- repetition of vowel sounds. Ex. scatters and amasses.

17. CONSONANCE -- repetition of final consonant sounds. Ex. He struts and frets.

18. RIME -- repetition of the accented vowel sounds and all succeeding sounds.

    A. Masculine rime -- rhyme sounds involve only one syllable. Ex. clocks/sox; support/retort.

    B. Feminine rime -- rhyme sounds involve two or more syllables. Ex. Turtle/fertile.

    C. Internal rime -- one or both rising words are within the line.

19. METER -- the pattern of a verse marked by the prevailing foot and number of feet.

20. FOOT -- basic metrical unit, consisting normally of one accented syllable and one, two, or three unaccented syllables.
 
 

This handout was provided by Richard Freed, EKU

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